Mindy Wilke-Douglas, currently the Vice President of Operations, has been with ThermoGenesis since 2008. During a company-wide restructuring, she went back to the academic field, but eagerly accepted the opportunity to return when it became available. That’s how much she believes in the mission of the company and in the passion and work ethic that our team puts into every product that we bring to the market.
As a natural mentor and teacher, she loves to help people and teams reach their full potential, so it’s no surprise that she devoted part of her career to teaching at the collegiate level, where she enjoyed opening the eyes of the next generation to enter the workforce. In this interview, she shared with us some of her most memorable moments at ThermoGenesis and where she sees the company headed in the future.
During Your Time at ThermoGenesis What Has Been the Most Memorable Moment?
I joined ThermoGenesis as a Marketing Manager and part of the Cell Therapy group. At that time, I was responsible for the AXP® System which is our automated cord blood processing system. The AXP System had recently been launched into the cord blood banking market and was being distributed through partnerships. We think of ourselves as this small company tucked away in Rancho Cordova, CA, a place almost no one has heard of, but our powerful little AXP System is used worldwide in many of the largest and well- known cord blood banks in the world. One day we were looking at historic AXP sales numbers and realized that over a million cord blood units had been processed with the AXP System worldwide! To realize, that because we had developed, manufactured and supported this formidable system, so many units are available that can potentially provide life-saving therapy, was very memorable.
What Was the Length of Time Between Launching the Product and Banking One Million Units?
The product was initially launched in 2007 to a large private bank, and we hit the million mark around 2014. In reality, though, as with many truly innovative and complex systems, we had several challenges when it first came out. Once resolved, the market accepted the system with open arms in 2010. That’s when the AXP System received industry recognition as a product that would become the gold standard for cord blood processing because of its superior cell processing capabilities.
Where Do You see ThermoGenesis in the Next 35 Years?
ThermoGenesis is really an up-and-comer. We’re a small company, and we continue to be agile and move with the market to be on the forefront of product development to get new technology out into the market. I don’t see that slowing down. We have some incredible, new products that are coming out that are cutting edge and are really going to change the face of cell therapy and automated cellular processing.
We view our new products as part of a needed revolution in cell processing. Our disruptive technology will significantly alter current cell processing methods allowing reduced time and cost, and therefore greater availability to the public. Currently, manufacturing immunotherapies continue to include manual processing steps. What we’ll bring to the market will be the utmost in flexibility while also providing a closed processing, automated system that is safer, quicker, and will bring cell therapy to a greater cross section of the world and that will allow people to get therapies that they may not be able to get now.
What Drew You to the Opportunity to Work With ThermoGenesis and Why did You Come Back a Second Time?
Before working at ThermoGenesis, I spent 13 years working for an up-and-coming company that is now a market leader in cell processing. I worked with a lot of academic researchers and translational docs who were developing prospective cell therapies. For me, the next step in my career was to move forward into the clinical application of products and ThermoGenesis provided that opportunity.
Initially, I was a marketing manager in the cell therapy area and that helped me understand so much about the field and the different types of therapies that could be used for patients. I love working with customers to understand their pain points and see if we have products and services that can help them. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the capabilities of our products – what we have now and what we can develop based on customer needs.
Why did I come back? Because I really missed the work I was doing.
What Has Been the Most Rewarding Part of Your Time at ThermoGenesis?
The most rewarding part of my time at ThermoGenesis has been the opportunity to work with the people I work with. I’m a mentor. I love to teach and help people and I get to do that here. Finding new ways to innovate – what we can do and where we can go – has been truly rewarding. The AXP System has also been one of my passions because of what we’ve been able to do with it. We had this really great product line, but it was having issues and we were able to “rally the troops,” leverage our customer operations and engineering teams, and bring to life this groundbreaking technology that’s impacting the world. Most importantly, we were able to do all of it as a team – figuring out what the market needs and determining how we can make a difference with our technology.
Now we have the next generation of automation, the X-SERIES® line of products. This product line is like the AXP System but on steroids. It’s flexible and more powerful. It enriches cell populations, it washes and concentrates cells and when used with our microbubble technology, it also selects specific cell populations. These are incredibly powerful products that will change cell processing as we know it today.
What Would You Say Is the Ultimate Mission Behind What ThermoGenesis Does and How Does Your Role Play Into It?
The ultimate mission of ThermoGenesis is wrapped up in everything we do – every product we provide, phone call we make, and email we answer – and that’s to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether banking a cord blood unit or isolating cells for T-cell therapy, we’re giving life through those cells to someone. If we do nothing else, we can affect and have a positive impact on the lives of others.